Archive | The idea of honor

Uncle Billy: The Evolution of a Legend, Part Two

Another Billy Rubottom story has a third version, less romanticized, a product of the change in sensibilities in our own era.  This one concerns the death of  Hilliard Dorsey, who was married to Billy’s daughter Civility. Dorsey was a former Confederate officer, like Billy a prominent Mason and community leader. Horace Bell’s portrait is not […]

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Uncle Billy: The Evolution of a Legend, Part One

William Wiley Rubottom, a California innkeeper and entrepreneur known to everyone as “Uncle Billy,” provided the inspiration for some serious storytelling.  Conflicting versions of two of these stories, set down twenty years apart,  offer a glimpse of the way in which stories can be used to reinforce the values of a place and time, and […]

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Fantasies of a Slave Empire

The mid-19th century in America was a time of exuberant optimism.  We had defeated Mexico, and annexed half of its land.  We were the masters of half a continent, who had driven its original inhabitants off their ancestral territories and confined them in ever-shrinking enclaves of poverty and insignificance. There seemed to be no limit […]

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The Uses of Dueling

In the society of frontier Arkansas, as in the rest of the South, all respectable white men were expected to conform to a code of honor.  But that code imposed some special requirements for the status of  “gentleman,” qualities that constituted a key part of a person’s social rank. Donald P. McNeilly, the author of […]

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What were They Reading? Mark Twain Had Some Thoughts.

Albert Pike, a lawyer, journalist, Civil War general and later a major figure in American Masonry, kept a circulating library in the office of the Arkansas Advocate.  We know the titles of some of his books, because borrowers often failed to bring them back, and he had to put ads (and poems) in his paper […]

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